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PLoS One. 2009 Nov 20;4(11):e7941. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0007941.

Stem loop sequences specific to transposable element IS605 are found linked to lipoprotein genes in Borrelia plasmids.

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Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, School of Medicine, State University of New York, Stony Brook, New York, United States of America.



Plasmids of Borrelia species are dynamic structures that contain a large number of repetitive genes, gene fragments, and gene fusions. In addition, the transposable element IS605/200 family, as well as degenerate forms of this IS element, are prevalent. In Helicobacter pylori, flanking regions of the IS605 transposase gene contain sequences that fold into identical small stem loops. These function in transposition at the single-stranded DNA level.


In work reported here, bioinformatics techniques were used to scan Borrelia plasmid genomes for IS605 transposable element specific stem loop sequences. Two variant stem loop motifs are found in the left and right flanking regions of the transposase gene. Both motifs appear to have dispersed in plasmid genomes and are found "free-standing" and phylogenetically conserved without the associated IS605 transposase gene or the adjacent flanking sequence. Importantly, IS605 specific stem loop sequences are also found at the 3' ends of lipoprotein genes (PFam12 and PFam60), however the left and right sequences appear to develop their own evolutionary patterns. The lipoprotein gene-linked left stem loop sequences maintain the IS605 stem loop motif in orthologs but only at the RNA level. These show mutations whereby variants fold into phylogenetically conserved RNA-type stem loops that contain the wobble non-Watson-Crick G-U base-pairing. The right flanking sequence is associated with the family lipoprotein-1 genes. A comparison of homologs shows that the IS605 stem loop motif rapidly dissipates, but a more elaborate secondary structure appears to develop in its place.


Stem loop sequences specific to the transposable element IS605 are present in plasmid regions devoid of a transposase gene and significantly, are found linked to lipoprotein genes in Borrelia plasmids. These sequences are evolutionarily conserved and/or structurally developed in an RNA format. The findings show that IS605 stem loop sequences are multifaceted and are selectively conserved during evolution when the transposable element dissipates.

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